Being a proverbial hardworking student, I never valued the importance of a summer break. I had spent them studying, reading, or practicing for the upcoming school year. After doing ten years of post secondary school, I suppose my mind and body got use to, and almost dependent on, the rest from a summer break. So much so that I didn’t realize how important a break was until I had been without one. One analogy that comes to mind is what happens when you go for a long walk and then sit down – you don’t realize how tired you are until you stop walking and then you can’t get up. The same goes for exercising your mind, body and spirit – if you don’t rest, then you break from exhaustion and it takes a long amount of time to operate again.
This point has been presented to me numerous times throughout my naturopathic practice. I see a majority of patient cases that are quite similar – people in their supposed prime (between 25-40) suffering from new (well new to them) symptoms of pain, fatigue, anxiety, or “not feeling as well as they use to”. In taking these cases I conclude that the onset for all of them is the same – they have overworked themselves. Taking advantage of super charged adrenals and fast recovering immune systems in their young teens and twenties, they had never taken a break and worked themselves to exhaustion. Then confusion hits when their minds/bodies can’t handle the same stressors with the same youthful robust nature. These damaging stressors can be mundane as missing lunch or pulling an all nighter, to something as tremendous as chronic abuse to the mind, but they add up. Biologically we can handle most of “anything” for the first couple of decades, but our defense systems slowly begin to break down in the end of our second decade and if we haven’t set up a healthy routine or proper coping mechanisms then we are setting ourselves up for a break (and not a scheduled restorative one). One of the reasons we work so hard is because our priorities are a bit skewed – straining and overworking ourselves to achieve external goals rather than taking care of the most important person – yourself. Unfortunately this way of life comes “crashing down on us” and the body creates somatic warning bells in the form of symptoms to get us to listen and finally take care of ourselves. In layman terms, we call this a “break” or a “midlife crisis”.
So what do we do to prevent a mental-emotional-physical break? We need to take care of ourselves. This includes setting a routine (humans thrive on routine as our neurobiological systems work on circadian schedules), eating regular meals, sleeping 6-8 hours, having social connections, drinking water, and getting physical exercise. Sounds easy, but we hardly follow it for long periods of time. It is still incredibly important to work and address stressors with healthy boundaries and coping mechanisms. Optimally we would want to create a healthy routine when we are younger to avoid the enevible burnout, but that isn’t always the case. The body is quite resilient thankfully, so it can restore and repair itself with time and care. It’s just being patient enough to allow the time and care to repair.
Enjoy the summer break. We need restful breaks to avoid mental emotional physical breaks. Listen to the subtle symptoms your body graces you with – they are signals that things need to change. Take the time to adopt a routine and stick to it. Embrace breaks and be grateful for them – they are necessary for a healthy and happy life. Happy restful break everyone!